To Create, Consume, and Be Consumed: #FridayReads

That phrase content consumed strikes me as on the crude side when it comes to reading a work of art created by a writer or watching a film that is the vision of a director. However, I’m going to share some of the content I’ve consumed and want to consume as the beginning of a conversation with you all about some of the good stuff you have watched, read, or listened to. My lists are below and I hope you’ll add some of what you have watched, listened to, or read in the comments section at the bottom of this page!

I hope to make this a regular Torg Stories post.

Torg Stories, podcast, writing, Bill Torgerson, This American Life, Longform, The Ringer, SI Media Podcast

the podcast app on my iPhone

Content I listened to, watched, or read…

  • “The Fix is In” on This American Life podcast. About price fixing.  It was the Matt Damon movie called The Informant. Didn’t see that one but thinking about watching it. Hard to fit movies in these days unless they are 8 and 10 year old girl appropriate.
  • Longform podcast “The Really Big One” podcast. About the imminent earthquake in the Northwest. After listening to this, I also read Kathryn Schulz’s New Yorker article of the same title. Click here to read that.
  • Graeme Simson’s novel The Rosie Project. A researcher who probably has a degree of Asperger’s Syndrome devises a grand plan to find a wife that involves passing out questionnaires to women at parties. Hilarity ensues!  I highly recommend and thanks to my friend Katie for sending it my way!
  • I’m reading The French Broad by Wilma Dykeman as I begin a writing and film project something along the lines of “On the French Broad.” If that’s too broad (pun intended) then maybe “Asheville on The French Broad”? I hope to take a look at who is on the river, how I might navigate it with my family, and the political and social issues that surround the water. While reading this book published in 1955, I have learned to think more complexly about where men fought during the Civil War in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, AND I learned a really interesting story about how Dr. Mitchell lost his life on the mountain that now bears his name.

I want to read, listen to, or watch…

  • Kathryn Schulz’s book Being Wrong and maybe watch her accompanying TED Talk. Given the number of views the talk has, looks like I’ll be about the last one to see this one.
  • Rob Sheffield’s book On Bowie. I read the first 20 pages while my family browsed in the local bookstore. I skipped ahead and read the last ten, AND I’m still going to buy this book and read it all again. I really loved Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape, and I liked Talking to Girls About Duran Duran and Turn Around Bright Eyes about singing karaoke. I like Rob Sheffield’s writing almost as much as I like Nick Hornby’s writing. I also often suggest the fill in the blank “On ________________” to students who can’t think of a title. For example “On Being a Father to Girls” or “Notes On My First Trip to Madison Square Garden.”
  • I can’t wait to watch Lorne Michaels on Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. One of my fantasies for myself is to be a sort of Lorne Michaels of Asheville in putting together a local version of SNL.


And finally, what I’m working on…

  • I’m 9,000 words into an essay about my experience participating in what is called The 48 Hour Film Project for the third straight year in Asheville.
  • I’m planning to reshoot a few scenes, hopefully in the next week, to clean up the Torg Stories short film, “Captain Ice Cream.”
  • I’ve scheduled an interview with a representative of MountainTrue and a man who is the French Broad Riverkeeper about issues that surround the river in Asheville. This is the beginning of work that I hope will lead to a writing and film project about The French Broad and the people who use
  • I taped an interview for an upcoming Torg Stories podcast with Peter Gregutt. I met Peter when he worked with me as an editor on a piece published in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress titled “How Christopher Mello Sows Peace and Community in his West Asheville Garden.”  When I learned Peter had climbed volcanoes in Guatemala, trekked the Himalayas, and spontaneously took a boat to Africa, I wanted to get him on the podcast. I was interested in his time in New York City studying English at Colombia, that he’d spent decades as an editor, and grabbed hold of the phrase Armpit Traveller as a title for a travel themed collection he’d written.


In the comments section below, let me know what you’ve read, watched, or listened to that I should take a look at. Thanks for joining the conversation!



What Do You Call a Person Who Writes Poems That Don’t Rhyme?

In Baker’s novel The Anthologist, Paul Chowder believes all poems should rhyme.  Also, he’s having some trouble with his girlfriend, smaller troubles with his dog and a mouse, and he has an intro to an anthology he needs to finish.  This isn’t “save the earth from a falling satellite” kind of trouble, but enough to keep me reading.  I think it was Vonnegut who advised writers to do at least something to keep a reader interested even if it was only jamming a piece of food between the protagonist’s teeth and causing him or her to want to get it out.  The good stuff in The Anthologist for me was in the clever and/or funny lines. Here’s a couple of them:

On Tetris, “that computer game where the squares come down relentlessly and overwhelm your mind with their crude geometry and make you peck at the arrow keys like some mindless experimental chicken and hurry and panic and finally you turn your computer off.  And you sit there thinking, Why have I just spend an hour watching squares drop down a computer screen?”

My Tetris is Probably Madden Football

On “poems” that don’t rhyme:  “That’s what I call a poem that doesn’t rhyme–it’s a plum.  We who write and publish our nonrhyming plums aren’t poets, we’re plummets.  Or plummers.”

Torgerson Baker The Anthologist Read Books

Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist

The laws governing romantic breaking up:  Paul notes when he sees his ex girlfriend, “If you break up with someone, you get to go out with someone else.”

Except for when my eyes glazed over during the longish explanations about iambic pentameter, I liked this book enough to recommend it.  It served as a kind of argument for me that I ought to think about giving up all the Goodreads, WordPress, and tenure track paperwork stuff and maybe move up to Maine or down to North Carolina and stick a lawn chair out in a shallow creek bed.  I could send my books out from there via email, except for there’s that thing about needing a paycheck.  Paul Chowder, the protagonist, is in sore need of one of those too.

This book had a lot of writing advice in it.  I might bother to type it all up and share it if anyone seems to be interested to ask for it via comment.  If any of you out there are poets or plummers, I’d like to hear what you think of this book.

Summer Camp, Complicated Relationships, and Maine: Jane Roper’s Eden Lake

In order to win Jane Roper’s novel Eden Lake I had to agree to read the book and participate in the accompanying Goodreads discussion as a part of The Next Best Book Club.  I am a finicky reader who has probably put down at least as many books as I’ve begun, and so I wanted to make sure I had a decent chance to like the story okay before I agreed to have it shipped to me.  I could already see myself ten pages into 300, not enjoying the read, but having to stay with it because I said I would.

I went to Amazon and checked out the opening pages.  I was happy with how things got started:  “Just before noon on the morning after Memorial Day, Eric filled the tank of the John Deere, started the engine and rolled out of the barn into broad sunlight.”  One of my favorite authors, Richard Ford, often starts books on a holiday (Independence Day, Easter) and there’s a lot competent in Jane’s sentence:  it placed me firmly in time and in the sort of setting where there would be a John Deere and a barn.  I knew I wasn’t in Queens anymore, and felt like my reading life was safe for the week I put it in  Jane’s control.

Jane Roper Eden Lake William Torgerson Maine Summer Camp Relationships 80s Love on the Big Screen

Jane Roper's Eden Lake

Maine, complicated relationships, secrets, and summer camp.  These are the primary ingredients of this story that bring together a group of brothers and sisters to run a summer camp that their parents ran when they were growing up.  There are surprises here—excellent ones—and they are spaced out nicely that in such a way that just when I got comfortable with how things were going, just when I thought I could see what was going to happen next, there was something that threw me for a good reading loop and reinvigorated my interest in the story.

I’ve heard several writers say that they don’t have one idea for a book, usually the book comes when several ideas seem to collide and this book has a good bit of that going on.  There are romantic and familial complications along with the tricky balance that running a camp that’s good for kids must be while at the same time paying attention to the fact that there are bills to be paid.  “Materialism is the opiate of the masses,” one character quips in part about all the upgrades to the camp over the years (i.e. a climbing wall).  Another remembers how in the old days the camp was supposed to be, “A vision of what the world might be.”  That last line, it reminds me of something fiction can accomplish as well.  Eden Lake creates a world I was thankful to have visited, enough so that I still haven’t stopped thinking about packing up the car and heading north to see if I could find some version of it.

Jane Roper Eden Lake William Torgerson Love on the Big Screen Maine Summer Camp Relationships 80s Love on the Big Screen

Click Here to Watch a Very Funny Book Trailer

Roper, Jane. Eden Lake. Boston: Last Light Studio, 2011. Print.